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The Court of Justice of the European Union

INTRODUCTION

The Treaty of Lisbon is aimed at improving the functioning of the judicial system of the European Union (EU) and at the same time adapting it to developments in European law. The Court of Justice of the EU has therefore been subject to internal reforms with changes both to its structure and to the names of judicial bodies. The Treaty of Lisbon also increases the judicial control of the Court by granting it new competences and widening its controls to other EU bodies.

JUDICIAL BODIES

The Treaty of Lisbon amends the very names of the EU bodies. From now on, the Court of Justice of the EU shall designate all of the EU’s judicial system which is composed of:

  • the Court of Justice;
  • the General Court, formerly known as “Court of First Instance”;
  • the specialised courts, formerly known as “judicial chambers”.

These name changes are aimed at clarifying the EU’s judicial system and do not involve any changes to the prerogatives of the bodies in question.

The Treaty of Lisbon also improves the flexibility of the EU’s judicial system. The amendment of the Court’s Statute and the creation of new specialised courts now forms part of ordinary legislative procedure and no longer necessitates a Decision issued by the Council acting unanimously.

The procedure for the appointment of judges and Advocates-General has been considerably amended. The Treaty of Lisbon has established an Advisory Committee for their appointment. The number of Advocates-General, currently standing at 8, has been increased to 11.

JUDICIAL CONTROL

The Treaty of Lisbon extends the Court’s judicial control to acts of the European Council. In addition, it harmonises provisions relating to acts of EU agencies and bodies. Such acts may now be the subject of appeal to the Court of the Justice of the EU.

The Treaty of Lisbon also widens access to appeal by new appellants. National Parliaments and the Committee of the Regions may thus request the annulment of acts that they consider are contrary to the principle of subsidiarity. The Committee of the Regions may, furthermore, refer matters to the Court of Justice of the EU in order to safeguard its own prerogatives.

The Treaty of Lisbon makes a minor adjustment regarding appeals presented by individuals. The latter may now appeal against regulatory acts without enforcement measures being required. However, admissibility conditions requiring that individuals be directly and personally concerned by the contested act have been maintained.

Finally, the Treaty of Lisbon simplifies the sanction mechanism in the event of non-execution of a judgment. The Commission can now refer matters to the Court after first having served formal notice on a Member State to execute a judgment. The intermediary phase during which the Commission was obliged to deliver a reasoned opinion has therefore been abolished.

The Treaty of Lisbon also simplifies the non-compliance procedure in the event that a Member State does not communicate national measures concerning transposition. In this case, the Commission may at the same time bring action for failure to fulfil obligations and request pecuniary sanctions, whereas previously two separate actions were necessary.

AREAS OF COMPETENCE

The judicial control of the Court has been extended to the area of freedom, security and justice. Acts relating to visas, asylum, immigration and other policies on the free movement of persons may now be the subject of appeal, which constitutes major progress in the building of Europe. However, the Treaty of Lisbon establishes restrictions to this new judicial review. The Court may not rule on police operations carried out by a Member State, or on the responsibilities of Member States as regards the maintenance of law and order and the safeguarding of internal security.

The principle excluding the area of common foreign and security policy from the Court’s jurisdiction remains unchanged. Nevertheless, the Treaty of Lisbon introduces two exceptions where matters may be referred to the Court:

  • against restrictive measures taken by the Union against natural or legal persons (Article 275 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU);
  • for international agreements; if the opinion of the Court is adverse, the agreement in question may not enter into force unless it is amended or the Treaties are revised (Article 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU).

SUMMARY TABLE

ArticlesSubject

Treaty on European Union

19

The role and composition of the Court of Justice of the EU

Treaty on the Functioning of the EU

251 to 281

The functioning and powers of the Court of Justice of the EU

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Last updated: 22.01.2010
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